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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

ALEXANDER VOK  HTJMJBOLBT.                239
But besides this, in all countries bounded by the
Mediterranean, a great portion of the  earth's surface
is bare rock.    The picturesque   character   of Italian
landscapes consists principally in the lovely contrast
between  the   Infertile  bare rock and the luxurious
vegetation   which   rises   Island-like   upon  it.      But
where this rock is less split, and retains the water on
its surface, which is then covered with earth, as the
lovely shores of the lake of Alhano, there Italy has,
its oak forests as shady and green as the denizen of
the north  could  desire.    But if a district has  once
lost its vegetable covering by inundation or volcanic
revolutions,, if the sand lies undisturbed and without
springs, if the hot air rising perpendicularly hinders
the fall of the clouds, then ages elapse before from
the green shores a new organic life penetrates Into
this desolation.    He, therefore, who can survey nature
at a   glance,  and deduct the  consequences of local
conditions,   sees . how   organic   force   and   richness
increase  with the Increase of the vivifying warmth
from the poles to the equator,  and how yet every
^one   has   its  peculiar  beauties.    The   tropics  Lave
variety and size of the botanical formations, and the
north has the sight of fields, and the periodic revival
of nature at the first spring-breezes.
Although the character of a district depends on all
its visible phenomena, althotigh the form, of moun-
tains, the physiognomy of plants and animals, the
bitten ess of the sky, the form of clouds and
transparency of the atmosphere, complete the total
impression, the vegetable covering always remains
the chief feature in this impression. The animal
organization wants mass, and the mutability of the
individual often withdraws them entirely from the
scene; but the vegetable world Impresses by its im-
movable grandeur, its masses show Its age, and in
plants alone are age and ever-renewing youth co-
existing. The finite life of the animal world, although
it more affects our feelings of goodwill or aversion,
always remains foreign to the .physiognomy of a